DIY : Coffee Roasting – Kevin Wang – Medium

TL;DR — I roasted coffee for the first time and got all the feels.

Tuesday, April 17th: I roasted my first batch of coffee, something I’ve been wanting to do since my buddy, Rick Rosato, first introduced me to “specialty coffee” back in 2013. 5 years later, 3 of which actually working in the industry and most of that using nordic coffee roasters such as The Barn and Tim Wendelboe, I roasted my first batch by myself.

I just received my Ikawa Pro Roaster the same day (sure you can argue this is not roasting because a computer is doing the work), and grabbed a 3lb bag of random garbage-quality Colombian green coffee beans from Amazon that I expected to blow through while getting up to speed with the roaster. There were coffee borer holes in a bunch of the beans, and some are broken and rotten. Supposedly it had a cupping score of 85 (out of 100) as marked on the bag. Now I’m not a coffee buyer or QC expert, but that score was pretty questionable. So I dose out my first 50 gram batch of un-roasted beans and hand-sort out all the defective ones. With the roaster’s controller app on my phone, I pulled up Tim Wendelboe’s Finca Tamana template roast curve and got to the roasting.

Green coffee beans, prior to dropping into the roasting chamber.

Looking back on the actual roasting itself, it was very hands-free so it did not leave much of a lasting impression. Not nearly as much as the cupping (a standardized procedure for coffee roasters and quality control experts to taste and grade coffee).

So fast forward a little bit. Beans are brown and roasted and waiting as I look around my kitchen. Nothing with my setup is ideal yet, I know I should wait a few days before cupping roasted coffee (or should I?), but I’m like a kid on Christmas Day here. I muster up what I can for a super-impromptu cupping setup: grinder setting is a total guess, no refractometer, water using a Pür drinking water filter, everything I remember from cupping at Budin and Blue Bottle over two years ago is a total blur — is the coffee:water ratio 11:180g or 12:200g? I don’t know, I’ll refigure it out later.

Super fresh coffee. Ground. Ready to be made into a soup to cup.

For the first 50 gram batch, I proceed as such:

Grind — Smell dry aroma — Pour hot water — Smell wet aroma — Wait 4 minutes— Break crust and smell aroma — Skim the foam — Wait for it to cool — Slurp — Spit — Repeat many times.

In my head, I struggled to recall all the coffee terminology I could and tried to imagine myself as if I were in a lab, cupping with some colleagues and friends. The coffee was very underdeveloped, grassy, some hidden pleasing acidity as the coffee cools. I quickly ended it there and my mind was already jumping to “What can I do differently for the second batch to make it better?” Not really having much experience or knowdledge, I edit the curve by raising ending temperature a few degrees… like 7ºC? And extending the time by almost 30 seconds. Fast forward over the hands-free roasting and right back to cupping.

Left: Roast profile. | Right: Coffee ready to be cupped.

At first slurp I was sort of shocked, “Oh what?! It’s roasty as f$%@!” In my mind, the semi-arbitrary changes I had made were intended to be minimal, but I guess I was totally oblivious as they had quite a drastic impact. All of a sudden, I started to think about all the possibilities, all the different variables and factors around coffee roasting, within and beyond my control. It was as if my brain was unraveling… and I started to get a glimpse of the truth like Edward in the Fullmetal Alchemist. I got so excited… so excited that I started to type up this long, “thing”.

Looking forward and what steps I want to take next, I will be expecting green coffee from Nordic Approach, as I really I just don’t have patience to work with random coffee of negligible quality. I need to do considerably more research on roasting, as well as play with more roast curves/profiles on my roaster. My cupping protocols need to be refreshed, and set up might need a revamping. I so very much want to share this with friends so I’m already quite stressed about scalability.

*deep breathes*

Baby steps for now.

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